Quality - There is a definite difference between the Western and Tanzanian concept of quality. For example, toilets. While in Arusha yesterday, we had lunch and then had to find the facilities. There was one attached to the restaurant, which was around the corner, through a hobbit sized door in the large steel car doors and behind the kitchen. We were travelling with one of my women's group members. She had checked it out first and when asked, said “Oh yes, it is good”. Well, her idea of good and mine, are not the same. There was water for flushing and it seemed clean, but there was enough odor to clear the sinuses and wish that the entire business took less time than it does. And then there are the buses. For whatever reason, my stumbling block on this trip has always been getting to Arusha. I knew enough about the dangers of the route, and the hassles at the bus station to not want to do it alone so I was happy to be doing this with 2 other people. I had my hot pink Post it note with the bus lines to avoid and the “good” bus lines. However, Aisha's idea of good and mine, are again, poles apart. Dar Express or the other Mzungu “good” lines don't leave from the main Moshi bus station. I asked for a Mzungu bus and the other woman asked for a “good” bus. Aisha's concept of a “good” bus is a big bus (rather than daladala or a midsized bus they have here). The one to Arusha wasn't so bad, but it still had drop down seats in the central aisle so you sit 5 across, but the seats are so narrow, that 2 sitting in the regular seats are very close together, and when the drop seat is up, you can really only get one and a half bottoms in the seats. Then there is standing room only. It is really like a glorified daladala but the money man is a little more relaxed. Coming back, we experienced the nightmare ride that is always recommended to avoid on this forum. A flycatcher jumped into the daladala we were in and tried to convince us to go with his bus. It was Coaster, and I said “no way – no Coaster”. However, the one we got couldn't have been much better. The driver was sitting in the seat and let go the clutch so the bus hit the bus in front. Didn't faze anyone particularly Aisha. My companion and I started looking for the seat belts. Thank goodness there were some. While waiting for the departure time, the goods hawkers were working the open windows. If you ever have the whim of buying razors (that could be used for torture), cheap perfume, cheap ugly jewelry, buns, bread, gum, hair combs, or underpants while sitting in the intercity buses – you can do it all here. When we finally left, there was traffic congestion getting out of town, which the driver didn't like – so he would honk, try to pass, took the “sleeping policemen” (speed bumps) at a fast enough speed to test the car springs and our back flexibility. Then someone needed to be ousted from the bus and he made sure we all knew he wasn't happy. Stop here; Usa River, stop there; Boma Ngombe, oh, there's a little space in the aisle now, let's roust up some more business. Then, it being Friday evening, the local youth are coming into town to party. Not a savoury looking group. The worst daladala was never as nervewracking as this bus. No quality in that experience.
My project is a woman's group who sew purses, bags, do paper bead jewelry and have other sewing items. We have been working on sewing and finish quality for an overseas market and I have been teaching them many skills for making their items better, and the most recent introduction – an iron. There are electric irons sold here, but only one of the women had ever used an iron and that was one heated by coal. So we source the iron and there is a choice of 2 charcoal irons. I eliminate one pretty quickly and then the other one – more expensive at 12000 Tsh or $8US dollars – looks like it will do the job. The clerk brings out 2. One has a better faceplate, but it is made in India of cast metal parts. The overflow metal at the seams have not been removed so he grabs a file and starts filing down the slag so that the bolt for the handle fits into the body. Then the lever and knob for closing the charcoal chamber is too loose. We try the other body. Eventually, after 20 minutes of changing handles, filing slag, trying new screws; we have an iron that is useable. TIA. Thread is cheap, scissors are cheap, the two new sewing machines that were purchased when others were stolen have already been repaired in their first week.
Tanzanians prefer to buy used North American clothing rather than new, as the new clothes come from China and the used clothing are better quality. There are Nike, UPS, Kmart Service Department, Tim Horton's Camp Day shirts – any colour or logo – being worn here. Strangely enough, for a country that still tries to dress well; where the women continue to wear a kanga over pants (feminine culture over practicality); they don't ever repair their clothing. Every school sweater has runs in them and many seams are open, buttons missing and zips malfunctioning. I don't know whether it is because there is an excess of used clothing and they can just buy more, but it is very strange to me how they can go around with such poorly maintained clothing – and this is exhibited by all status levels, not just the very poor and hard working. Supposedly, clothing was maintained in the past, but I put it down to the advent of the used clothing trade now available. There are still a lot of tailors/seamstresses around, but they make new, never repair.
Measure – How big is that ketange? Well, I hold one end in my left hand, stretch out that arm to the side and if it reaches my right collar bone, it's a metre long. Do that 4 times, it is a regular ketange. Sometimes it is almost 6 measures long.
If you have this great desire to weigh yourself, you can find some guys around the bus station who have scales on the sidewalk so you pay them a few Tsh and you can use their scales to learn your weight. I can tell you, no woman I know would be caught dead weighing themselves on the sidewalk of their town.
We want 4 kilos of sukari (sugar) at the Mbunyi Market. It is weighed onto a scale with those little varying sized weights to balance. 25 kilos of rice is scooped into a sack and hung onto a standard grocery-type scale. No digital scales and scanners here in Moshi.
You want a Tanzanian style dress made so you go to the seamstress (who call themselves “fundi” or “tailor” regardless of gender) stand there in your regular street clothes. They measure you up with your ease included and this is on the sidewalk for all to see. You try not to look as she enters the numbers into her work book. Centimetres are not kind to a woman's psyche.
A Tz acquaintance related the story of the measure mentality at the gas station. On several occasions he has witnessed people rocking their vehicle from side to side after adding petrol. When asked, they say they want to get some more litres into it so they are shaking it down. Now, we know that sometimes works for dry measures, but I have never been able to force any more liquid into a receptacle after it is “full”. We were heartily entertained.